Clallam County, Port Angeles city officials consider public safety facility

Clallam County commissioners agreed to tell Port Angeles city staff that the city can locate a fire station at the county’s new emergency operations center site but not attach it to the new building and the city is on its own paying for it.

A site for the new facility also must be selected by Sept. 30 to avoid losing state funding, county commissioner Mark Ozias said.

The city does not have a settled date to consider an agreement with the county, said Nathan West, Port Angeles city manager, on Sept. 7.

“The city is optimistic that we will reach an agreement through the work of (city attorney) Bill Bloor and a representative from Clallam County,” West said.

“We hope to bring the agreement to City Council for approval in September.”

The current EOC is located in the basement of the Clallam County Courthouse, which, according to its last structural assessment, would not withstand an earthquake magnitude 7.0 or higher.

Additionally, the space has proven to be unworkable during emergency events, such as floods in November.

No site has as yet been agreed upon for the new facility, although four possibilities are under consideration, all near the Fairchild International Airport.

Proximity to the airport is considered important as that is where aid and relief will come into the county in the event of a major disaster.

County commissioners discussed the long-running issue with Dee Boughton, civil deputy prosecuting attorney, and Dale Jackson, public safety and facilities project manager, during the commissioners’ Sept. 6 meeting.

Commissioner Randy Johnson said he was more than a little upset after getting the most recent version of the memorandum of understanding from the city and he let West know that during a recent discussion.

On Aug. 30, Johnson had said the county had sent a memorandum of understanding to the city with an outline of the major issues.

“It came back with a management agreement, wanting something a little more substantive because a lot of money would flow, about $14 million into the project from the city,” Johnson said, adding that he understands the need for a west side fire station, “but it’s not something we have money for.”

The development of the Joint Public Safety Facility is expected to cost between $13 million to $18 million, depending on whether the county/city moves forward with developing a westside fire station.

Funding is available for the project from the state, but time is running out to access it.

It has $1.7 million in state funding and was a finalist with U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer for $3 million in federal funds, Johnson has said.

The money has to be spent before July 1, 2023.

“We are on a path of progress to ensure we get there and really don’t have time to spend on many issues, or else that funding would run out,” Johnson said.

Johnson added that the engineering company, contracted after a joint meeting with city officials, wants to work with only one entity. That would be the county.

“The city said it would manage it jointly with the county, the construction, and operation,” he said.

The date of Sept. 30 for the city’s approval of a site is “acceptable,” Johnson said, adding he is somewhat optimistic, although there had to be some flexibility in the timeline.

Ozias said they could leave that up to negotiation but that project deadlines must be met so the county can buy the property.

They have to be clear on the deadline, even if they have to hold a special meeting to meet it, Ozias said.

Jackson said evaluating the potential sites would take 10 days, so they should be able to wrap it up by the end of the month, he said.

Johnson said the two entities can’t afford to slow down the site-selection process. The city’s fire station is the holdup, he said.

Jackson said the fire station will stand alone if the city goes ahead and the city will design it on its own so it doesn’t get removed later. So, let the fire station process go ahead independently and sited at the same place but not attached, he said.

Ozias said it would be ideal to have a standalone fire station at the same site.